Hoyer Statement on Iran Developments

For Immediate Release:

January 16, 2016

Contact:

Mariel Saez  202-225-3130

WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement on today's developments regarding Iran:

“Bringing home American citizens who have been held captive overseas is one of the most sacred duties of our government, and I join in thanking President Obama and his diplomatic team for their unceasing efforts to secure the return of Jason Rezian, Amir Hekmati, Nosratollah Khosrawi-Roodsari, Saeed Abedini, and Matthew Trevithick from their unjust imprisonment in Iran.  I will continue to press for the swift return of Robert Levinson and any other Americans remaining in captivity. 

“Although I am disappointed that today’s hostage release was not part of the original nuclear deal, we can at last celebrate their homecoming. Such an action should never have been necessary, as Iran should never have detained these Americans in the first place with the intention of using them as bargaining chips. I reject any charge of equivalency between those released today by Iran and any prisoners being released by our government.  A journalist cannot be equated with someone convicted of cyber crimes.  A pastor cannot be compared to an arms trafficker.  Neither can a former Marine who was simply trying to visit his elderly grandmother. I am also concerned that our extradition requests are being dropped from individuals wanted for actively contributing to the chaos in the Middle East, increasing their freedom of movement and their ability to engage in further harmful activities.  

“While news of our citizens’ release is cause for joy, developments today regarding Iran’s implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ought to be greeted with abundant caution.  It is a very positive step that Iran’s possible breakout timeline has now been moved back from just weeks to a full year, but with the pressure of sanctions removed, we can expect its leaders to exploit any loophole to violate the agreement in letter or spirit.  That’s why the United States and our international partners need to maintain the strictest verification and enforcement regime possible and be ready to respond decisively in the event of a violation.  We must also continue to enforce existing sanctions relating to Iran’s support for terrorism and its pursuit of ballistic missile technologies and monitor closely how Iran uses the resources it will receive as a result of implementation. 

“Already we have seen Iran act maliciously since signing the JCPOA, with its ballistic missile tests, its live fire exercise in close proximity to a U.S. carrier group, and the assault on the Saudi embassy in Tehran.  Imagine what Iran could be doing following sanctions relief if its leaders do not believe there will be consequences.  President Rouhani has already said that Iran plans to double down on its ballistic missile program. That’s why the Administration must impose missile sanctions immediately - including action to sanction Iranians involved in the recent ballistic missile tests - and if the Administration does not act, Congress will.  Sanctions must also be imposed every time Iran flouts U.N. Security Council resolutions.  Additionally, we have to remain vigilant that Iran's financial windfall is not used to threaten America, Israel, and our Gulf and European allies. If it is, the United States needs to be prepared to respond forcefully.

“I have no doubt that Iran will use today’s developments to claim that it is a normal member of the family of nations, a country that ought to be seen as open for business with the world.  That would be a fundamental misreading of Iran today.  The fact remains that a shadow, hardline, unaccountable element of Iran’s government continues to support terrorism, imprison political dissenters, take foreigners hostage without cause, persecute ethnic and religious minorities, threaten journalists, and fuel violent and destabilizing conflicts in Syria and Yemen.  The international community must not delude itself that so-called ‘moderates’ like President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif have the final say on Iran’s military and security policymaking.  As our non-nuclear sanctions will continue in full force, foreign entities should continue to think twice before doing business with Iran.”  

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